The Digital Reactor: "the opportunity to multiply our strengths"

A major player in research, development and innovation in the nuclear field, the CEA is one of the partners of the Digital Reactor project. Xavier Raepsaet, head of simulation in the energy department (DES) of the CEA, explains his involvement and expectations.
What are the challenges of the project for the CEA?
The project will help us to converge millions of lines of code! We are already carrying out some coupling between simulation bricks, but today we have the opportunity to go further in the interoperability of all our calculation codes, whether they have been developed by CEA , EDF, Framatome or co. -developed. The CEA is very focused on the reference calculation, which aims to have the finest possible understanding of the physical phenomena inside reactors. Our software is complementary to more industrial simulations, which work at other scales of refinement with more demanding results return times. This pooling is very important and will involve the sharing of calculation standards.

The digital reactor will also advance our calculation models by integrating new data, in particular power plant operating measurements. These real data will allow us to reduce the uncertainties in our models, to strengthen validation, to make them more robust and more predictive: a growing demand from regulators.

What expertise does CEA bring to the digital reactor?
We are at the origin of some of the major simulation software for the reactor and its components used by EDF and Framatome, with whom we have already worked for many years. We bring these software bricks in particular in neutronics, in thermo-hydraulics and in the behavior of the fuel. We are also proactive in all developments capable of improving the physics of these software bricks and their predictive nature. The CEA's technological research department (DRT) is also participating in this project via a platform for orchestrating simulation services for players in the French nuclear industry. This infrastructure must allow communication with data from measurements of the plant life cycle.

How is the work going in practice with the other partners?
About ten people are involved in CEA DES and DRT. We took responsibility for creating the advanced multiphysics simulation platform for studies. We also participate in the operating platform. CATHARE, our software for simulating flows in the entire reactor and these components, will be used for example in both platforms, but associated with less fine physics for the operating and training platform.
What will the project contribute to the sector?
Even though we had major R&D agreements with EDF and Framatome, working for four years with various players in the French nuclear industry will allow us to go further, to know each other better, to understand each other better, in short, to collaborate ever more effectively. The digital twin project is ambitious, it will improve our relations within the sector, to rationalize and multiply our strengths.

State-of-the-art reactors, thanks to digital technology for Framatome
At the same time boiler maker, component and fuel supplier but also in charge of the maintenance of all types of nuclear reactors, Framatome is very involved in the digital reactor project. Stéphane Bugat, director of research and development, explains why.

What are the challenges of the digital reactor for Framatome?
The digital reactor is an important tool for the continuous improvement of safety. It will allow us to have a digital clone integrating all the particularities of each nuclear boiler. In addition, by organizing and assembling the different simulation bricks, it will facilitate the updating or replacement of computer codes by others, integrating the latest advances in physics for example. This will be very important for our studies, which make extensive use of simulation to demonstrate the safety of our equipment in all situations, whether normal, incidental or accidental. By integrating data specific to each installation, by facilitating the replacement of software bricks, our studies will gain in precision.
By developing digital platforms, the project will allow us to offer much more flexible services to our clients, both French and international. It is the development of nuclear power at the global level that is at stake here, by improving its credibility and its attractiveness.

What expertise does Framatome bring to the digital reactor project?
We bring a certain number of calculation codes in neutronics and in thermo-hydraulics which are as many software bricks, some of which have been co-developed with CEA and EDF. We will help our partners to integrate these bricks and to validate their assembly by bringing our know-how. This validation must be done both from an IT point of view, ensuring their interoperability, and from a physical point of view by ensuring the quality and accuracy of the results, while respecting the expectations of the nuclear safety authorities.

How do you work with other stakeholders?
We manage the validation process of the advanced simulation platform for studies. We participate in the specification of service offers by integrating the constraints of our customers in terms of calculation time and cost, by providing case studies. We are also going to participate in the training and training platform, by working on simulation bases which will make it possible to reduce response times. Our safety studies engineers will test it.
What do you expect from the project?

The digital reactor will give us the possibility of integrating more data into our studies, such as those of control / command, the boiler safety nervous system. The use of a digital platform, easy to access for our customers and partners, will really change the way we conduct studies. For example, we will be able to obtain and share simulation results more quickly during periodic safety reviews which can last for months. The use of models that are always at the cutting edge of the state of the art will allow our customers to free up additional operating margins while respecting safety requirements. Beyond exploitation.

Source: eDF


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